The London Visit is at the Heart and Soul of Kenyan Politics

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The British government has banned Transport Minister Chris Murungaru from stepping on UK soil. Joining him are a senior security official, a high-ranking civil servant at the AG’s office in a list including up to five ministers whose visas to Britain may also be revoked.

Though much of the coverage of this story has revolved around the diplomatic implications of the ban, let not the level of emotional and psychological anguish that a Kenyan politician feels at being unable to visit London be underestimated. From shopping at Harrods to strolling in the manicured lawns of their children’s boarding schools in the English countryside, access to the ‘mother-country’ is considered by Kenya’s political elite to be a key signifier of ‘making it’. Many own property in London – the abovementioned security official and civil servant for example reportedly own homes in the capital – and it is a favourite stop to bank suitcases of cash illegally procured from the public purse.

Since the Lancaster House conference, a series of three meetings in the early 1960s in which Kenya’s constitutional framework and independence were negotiated, the trip to London has always determined the trajectory of a political career in Kenya. With much of governing consisting of a slavish aping of colonial rule, the Kenyan politician requires psychological top-ups every once in a while. He visits London to be reminded of how high he has risen in the world: the distance he has put between himself and the dusty village he was born in and the mean streets he lords over.

The Kenyan politician exists in a tortured state when it comes to Britain, or England to be more exact. He loves all things English from the part of his personality that is aspirational. He grew up seeing the mzungu (the colonial settler or official) as a symbol of power and privilege, and more often that not was led into nationalist politics by a rarely stated or even conscious desire to one day follow suit. His lowly station in relation to the mzungu naturally made him burn with a resentment that was only compounded by his envy. The fruits of his success are not only wealth, but include the same paternalism and petty brutality that the British colonialist displayed toward the Kenyan. For the British to revoke Murungaru’s visa is to humiliate one of their political offspring; it is to arouse a similar anger among Kenya’s rulers as they would feel toward a deadbeat father.

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About bulletsandhoney
I read my first book when I was three, then my second one a few weeks later. It has carried on this way for decades with only temporary distractions of eating, fighting, loving, heartbreak and other such irrelevant biographical details.

8 Responses to The London Visit is at the Heart and Soul of Kenyan Politics

  1. Prousette says:

    Shall we stop the politicking here?
    The dear man goes and says that Sir Edward Clay had a hand in it?
    And this was an unfriendly gesture?
    No more Harrods for the poor guy maybe he will have to stoop down to mitumba like the rest of us as I can bet none of Britain’s neighbors will take him in either.
    Let us look at it this way. There is no way in hell you can force ME to accommodate YOU in my house if I do not want you. And last I heard I have the last say as to who to accommodate.

  2. ozymandiaz says:

    Next thing you know, someone will slip up and tell Murungaru that not only is he not white, but he is in fact (gasp) and African. How will he ever tell the misses…

  3. Msanii_XL says:

    last i heard was this “esteemed gentleman” is/was suing for libel? on what grounds is he doing this? since britain does not have reason why.

  4. Binyavanga says:

    I am very happy that Murungaru is ust the way he is, and hope Kibaki keeps him on. Kibaki’s slick and oily kitchen cabinet would not be rendered so naked without him. He and Kiraitu are the best testimony of the real motivations of these guys there can be. It is common knowledge here that Murgor was ‘removed’ because of the cocaine deal – which would have brought down many heavy hitters.

  5. MMK says:

    Binya – welcome to this house. Yes Murungaru should be kept exactly where he is, he belongs in that cabinet. He exemplifies what the game is all about and is crude about so that we are always aware of who these guys are.

    Msanii and prousette – I really do want him to go ahead and sue for libel and cause the biggest stink possible. Not because I think he has a case, but because I want to see the comedy that shall emerge as the two sides collide.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Karibu Sana Bwana Binyavanga…

    Naomba uzidi kutupa maoni yako mara kwa mara…

    Ladies and Gentlemen… The Founding Editor of Kwani?

    MMK That was short and sweet… you need a column in the local dailies… and the international dailies… Fresh and Witty…

  7. Anonymous says:

    Nope I want that lawsuit.

    How dare you banish a man from his home turf?

    That is like telling me a kenyan never to set foot in Kenya.

    Sir Murangaru is by all accounts an Englishman his fine English mannerisms, his flabby tight upper lip, his refined ways, his undying love for Harrod’s fine clothing, his love for weather conversations over a cup of tea and many more
    Can you Africans relate to his fine English tastes?
    Can you Africans even begin to know what it does to him being stuck in a place where 95% of the population is pitch black?

    A man’s heart is safer at home.
    In Murangaru’s case home is England.

  8. M says:

    So what will the poor clown do when he next falls in the bathroom?–>

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